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A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the late 19th Century US

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  • Rosenberg, N.
  • Trajtenberg, M.

Abstract

The steam engine is widely regarded as the icon of the Industrial Revolution and a prime example of a “General Purpose Technology,” and yet its contribution to growth is far from transparent. This paper examines the role that a particular innovative design in steam power, the Corliss engine, played in the intertwined processes of industrialization and urbanization that characterized the growth of the US economy in the late 19th century.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosenberg, N. & Trajtenberg, M., 2001. "A General Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the late 19th Century US," Papers 2001-27, Tel Aviv.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:teavfo:2001-27
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    1. Bresnahan, Timothy F. & Trajtenberg, M., 1995. "General purpose technologies 'Engines of growth'?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 83-108, January.
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    3. Nathan Rosenberg, 2009. "Uncertainty and Technological Change," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Studies On Science And The Innovation Process Selected Works of Nathan Rosenberg, chapter 8, pages 153-172, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
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    5. Paul Krugman, 1992. "Geography and Trade," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262610868.
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    10. Sokoloff, Kenneth L., 1988. "Inventive Activity in Early Industrial America: Evidence From Patent Records, 1790–1846," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 48(4), pages 813-850, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Josef Falkinger & Volker Grossmann, 2005. "Institutions and Development: The Interaction Between Trade Regime and Political System," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 231-272, September.
    2. Piva, Mariacristina., 2004. "The impact of technology transfer on employment and income distribution in developing countries : a survey of theoretical models and empirical studies," ILO Working Papers 993666903402676, International Labour Organization.
    3. Edquist, Harald & Henrekson, Magnus, 2004. "Technological Breakthroughs and Productivity Growth," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 0562, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 23 Jan 2006.
    4. Thomas Hempell, 2005. "Does experience matter? innovations and the productivity of information and communication technologies in German services," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 277-303.
    5. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:15:y:2006:i:7:p:1-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Michaels, Guy, 2010. "Challenges for research on resource-rich economies," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 55256, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Nicholas Crafts, 2004. "Steam as a general purpose technology: A growth accounting perspective," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(495), pages 338-351, April.
    8. Sukkoo Kim, 2006. "Division of Labor and the Rise of Cities: Evidence from U.S. Industrialization, 1850-1880," NBER Working Papers 12246, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2008. "Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 185-198, April.
    10. Carolina Castaldi & Alessandro Nuvolari, 2004. "Technological Revolutions and Economic Growth: The “Age of Steam” Reconsidered," LEM Papers Series 2004/11, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    11. Falkinger, Josef & Grossmann, Volker, 2005. "Distribution of Natural Resources, Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development: Growth Dynamics with Two Elites," IZA Discussion Papers 1756, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Mauro Napoletano & Andrea Roventini & Sandro Sapio, 2004. "Yeast vs. Mushrooms: A Note on Harberger's "A Vision of the Growth Process"," LEM Papers Series 2004/03, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    13. Sukkoo Kim, 2005. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," NBER Working Papers 11206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Castaldi, C. & Nuvolari, A., 2003. "Technological Revolutions and Economic Growth:The �Age of Steam� Reconsidered," Working Papers 03.25, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies.
    15. Paul A. David, 2005. "Productivity growth prospects and the new economy in historical perspective," Economic History 0502005, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Sandro Sapio & Grid Thoma, 2006. "The Growth of Industrial Sectors: Theoretical Insights and Empirical Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing," LEM Papers Series 2006/09, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    TECHNOLOGY ; WATER POWER ; INNOVATIONS;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N11 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N61 - Economic History - - Manufacturing and Construction - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O18 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Urban, Rural, Regional, and Transportation Analysis; Housing; Infrastructure
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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